Is my constant exhaustion normal?

Ask the doctors

Q. I feel like I'm tired all the time. Is this just a normal part of aging?

A. The short answer to your question is, no. Getting older may mean you have less endurance than you used to and you may feel tired sometimes, just like anyone else, but if you are experiencing long-lasting daily fatigue, there could be an underlying medical cause.

Some signs a doctor should evaluate your fatigue are when it interferes with your life and you can no longer enjoy activities that you used to; you are tired when you wake up in the morning, even after a good night's sleep; you have shortness of breath, in addition to fatigue; or you nod off during the day or feel drowsy while driving or during other activities.

The good news is that many of the underlying conditions that cause persistent fatigue are treatable. Possibilities include anemia, which is often caused by an iron deficiency; an underactive thyroid gland; a condition that affects sleep, such as sleep apnea; certain medications; a mood disorder, such as anxiety or depression; or other health conditions, including heart disease. A visit to the doctor may help you get your energy back.

— by Hope Ricciotti, M.D., and Hye-Chun Hur, M.D., M.P.H.
Editors in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch

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